13 February 2014

Near verbatim transcript of press conference by Joint Special Representative for Syria (JSRS) Lakhdar Brahimi

JSRS :  Good evening everyone.  We just had a two hours meeting with Wendy Sherman, Under-Secretary of State from the United States and Gennady Gatilov, Deputy Foreign Minister from the Russian Federation.  These are our regular tri-partite meetings.  They are very useful and important for us to keep the two initiating States, the two States that have first appealed for this Conference to take place and for the process to start.  I have briefed them in detail about the discussions we have had and are still having, with the two Syrian parties.  They have kindly reaffirmed their support to what we are trying to do and promised that they will help both here and in their capitals and elsewhere, to unblock the situation for us because until now we are not making much progress in this process.  So, you know, this was again a useful meeting for us.  And I repeat my gratitude to both parties for making the trip here to see us and listen to us.  A couple of questions.

Q. : (unofficial translation from Arabic) I am going to ask a question in Arabic Ambassador Brahimi.  Days have passed now in this second round of negotiations and there is no progress on the timetable or the agenda of these talks.  How long in your view do you think that this situation will continue, and what is the next step?  Will you return to New York to present a report on what is happening in the negotiations next week, or will there be another round? Thank you.

JSRS : (unofficial translation from Arabic) I have not decided yet on the date of my going to New York, but for sure, in the near future, I will go to New York to present a report to the Secretary-General and probably also to the Security Council.

Q. :  Thanks for taking my question.  The United States intelligence Chief said that he expects the stalemate in Syria to continue after Geneva talks because he said that the Government does not have the strength to hold onto the areas it clears, while the Opposition has enough external support to keep fighting.  And the United States announced its decision to resume support to the armed groups.  Have you sensed that the United States is backing away from a political solution in Syria and it is pushing towards making gains on the ground?  Thanks.

JSRS :  They are very difficult questions.  You know, you are much better informed than me about what the United States is doing.  I know only Wendy Sherman and she is very supportive of what we are trying to do.

Q. : (unofficial translation from Arabic) You proposed a few days ago a conciliatory formula that stipulates discussing in parallel the two issues of fighting terrorism and forming the Transitional Authority.  What was the position of the Russian side specifically during this meeting to the parallel idea that you proposed?

JSRS : (unofficial translation from Arabic) I do not think that they object to the idea that I presented.  Do not forget that whether we are talking parallel or not parallel, we are not going to solve this issue, not the issue of violence and terrorism and not the setting up of a Transitional Governing Authority, this week or next week or even the week after.  The aim only is to put these very important and very complicated issues on the table, and after that, God willing, we will see how to deal with them in the future.

Q. :   Mr. Brahimi, please, could you tell us if you are talking about confidence-building measures, new confidence-building measures in this round?

JSRS :  We haven’t yet but certainly, you know, we are rather excited positively by the positive things that have happened in Homs.  Quite a few positive things have happened in Homs.  They have just announced that they are extending the ceasefire for another three days.  So that’s all very good, but there are also some troubling things, frightening things, in Homs.  Our people and the young people from the Red Crescent were targeted by a lot of fire while they were there and the head of the United Nations team, when he came out, his car was hit several times.  He came out with one tire.  So, you know, we would like very much to repeat this in other places, but if we do, we hope that, you know, we won’t need a miracle for our people to come out alive.

Q. : (unofficial translation from Arabic) I would like to ask a question about the fate or the importance of this document that the opposition presented, made up of 22 or 24 points?  Does it have importance and a chance of being on the negotiating table?

JSRS : (unofficial translation from Arabic) It is on the negotiating table.  As for its fate, it is not today that it will be decided.

Q. :  This may seem, Sir, a provocative question but I ask it with great respect since like all of us here, I am a great admirer of the patience and perseverance that you have brought to your task.  My question: we have a situation where Washington wants the departure of President Al Assad and Moscow supports him.  And despite all your consultations there’s no concrete plan of action to implement the Geneva Communiqué which 18 months ago, called for an end to conflict and the creation of a transitional government.  So Sir, my question is does all this continuing uncertainty mean that the three weeks of the Geneva II Conference must be written off as a failure?

JSRS :  Fair question.  It’s a measure of the difficulty of the situation and its complication that, you are right, a document that was produced on the 30th of June 2012, we have just started discussing how we may perhaps implement it.  So it is, it is a very, very, very complicated subject.  Failure is always staring at us in the face.  As far the United Nations is concerned, we will certainly not leave one stone unturned if there is a possibility to move forward.  If there isn’t, we will say so.

Q. : (unofficial translation from Arabic)  Mr. Lakhdar Barahimi, you spoke last Tuesday about your need, and the need of the talks, for outside support.  Today, this outside support came.  Allow me to ask you, have you and the talks entered into a maze or a dark tunnel you cannot come out from?  Allow me to ask another question.  Concerning the programme for the talks tomorrow, will there be another session of talks, or have the talks in this round concluded at this point?

JSRS : (unofficial translation from Arabic) Well, it is not important where I am, what is important and sad is that Syria is in a dark tunnel, and these attempts are the point of light at the end of the tunnel, we are still looking for this point.

Q. :  I have two questions.  Today is the twelfth day that the parties are meeting.  Do you feel that they are in any way closer today than they were when they came here in the beginning?  And my second question is, to what extent would you say that the opening of Homs is a result of the talks here in Geneva? Thank you. 

JSRS :  You know, they are a little bit more familiar with the presence of the other side.  I don’t think that any friendships have developed yet.  Homs is, you know, you know of course I hope that we helped a little bit, but it has been done by our colleagues in Syria. 

Thank you very much indeed.